Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dr Wong Wee Nam’s speech at Tan Jee Say’s presidential election rally


Dr Wong Wee Nam’s speech at Mr Tan Jee Say’s presidential election rally on Tuesday 23 August at Toa Payoh stadium.

By Dr Wong Wee Nam
23 August 2011

My fellow Singaporeans,

When you go to the polls this Saturday, you will be electing your next president.
Hopefully, with your support, he will be Tan Jee Say.

You will not be getting a figure head but someone who is willing to exercise the power given to him.

Some people have come out to say the president cannot do this and cannot do that.

They made it seemed that the elected president cannot do much except to listen to the cabinet.

The president is not that weak. He is elected by you. What he cannot do as a president, he can do so as your representative. He can still listen to you and if need be, to express your concerns.

There may be certain legal constraints on what the president can do or cannot do. Jee Say understands that and will work closely with the government to make sure that this is a better country for all of us. But that does not mean he should be just a rubber stamp.

It would certainly be most absurd for an elected president to be denied the right to think and express opinions like any other citizen, or be disallowed from having his conscience guide him.

The Istana is not a 5-star restriction camp.

When you elect the president you empower him. We expect him to make sure we and our children do not suffer from the mismanagement of our money in the reserves and the CPF.

An elected president, therefore, is not just a ceremonial post. We do not pay him a humongous salary just to go around cutting ribbons, shaking hands and kissing babies.

As the symbolic soul of the nation, we want him to feel the concerns of the people who elected him and to be watchful over the direction the country is heading.

If the president does only what the cabinet tells him, then Jee Say would be just a very highly-paid puppet. Do we want that?

Then we might as well not have an election and get a cheaper puppet by other means.

We, the people of Singapore are the supreme body of this country. In this election, we cannot change the constitutional duties of the president. But as a supreme body, we do, by our choice, by electing someone for what he stands for, determine the scope of his moral obligations.

It is his moral duty to see that all our citizens are fairly treated and the country is united and peaceful.

When the post was created, the intent of Parliament was very clear. It was to prevent any future rogue government from raiding the reserves, from appointing their unqualified friends into the top positions in civil service and from covering up when there is corruption. It is to give the president the power of checks and balances.

So my friends, when we vote for Jee Say, this is a duty that is expected of him. In fact if he keeps quiet and does nothing, he would be shirking his responsibility.

Because of such heavy legal and moral responsibilities, we not only need a man who has good knowledge of the economy to protect your money in the reserves and the CPF, but also someone who possesses the courage, the impartiality, the conscience and the moral strength to do the job.

Firstly, to be impartial and independent, the president must be free from any emotional attachment to the party that he is supposed to watch over. Otherwise how is he going to function as a check?

Jee Say, therefore, is the most ideal candidate to provide the checks and balances to make sure a government does not step beyond the line. He has no affiliation to the ruling party so he would not have the emotional attachment to be shy about pointing out what is wrong.

Secondly, an elected president needs a certain amount of courage to do his job without fear or favour.

He also needs to be strong enough so as not to waver in face of tremendous pressure especially when he has to face an unconscionable cabinet should one appear.

There is no doubt Jee Say has plenty of courage. He is the first high-ranking scholar-civil servant to come out and fight a general election on an opposition ticket in May this year. In Singapore, you need to be very brave to do that.

Questions have asked why he had suddenly burst onto the political scene. I know Jee Say very well. All along he had wanted to come out and serve the people of Singapore, but for many years he had to take care of his aged mother. And he has to put his heart to serve the public on hold until she died early this year at the age of 100.

Therefore, my fellow Singaporeans, when you vote for Tan Jee Say, you will be voting for someone with both a heart for his mother and the nation.

You will also be voting for someone with vast experience in international economics and global finance. He has managed funds in the hundreds of million dollars and has a good grasp of money matters.

I spent one afternoon sipping coffee with Jee Say and he showed me how our money went into the reserves. He was like an expert financial plumber. He showed me the intricate routes through which our money flowed in and out of the system and circulated all over the place. By the time I finished the coffee, I was convinced that he is the right man to make sure your money and your children’s money will be safe.

Jee Say is a man with a strong sense of justice and social concerns. When he sees a wrong, he will not keep quiet. He has a view and does not sit on the fence so as to be politically correct.

His moral values are clear. They show in his objections to the casino, the mandatory death penalty and the ISA.

His views on education system, the high costs of healthcare, the need for minimum wage for the poor and the widening income gap show his concern for our poor, the sick and our low income workers.

It is this heart for the people that drives him to take part in elections and to speak up for the old, the underprivileged, the weak, the vulnerable, and the less educated.

Jee Say is someone who has a lot of empathy for the common man. This is what we need in a president.

He has also pledged to donate the bulk of his salary to worthy causes should he get elected.

Jee Say is a simple and frugal man. He lives modestly and feels he does not need such a huge salary. If you know him, you will know that he is a very sincere person, so when he says he wants to donate, his generosity comes from the bottom of his heart.

By this gesture alone, he shows to all Singaporeans the meaning of sacrifice. He sets the example of what real public service is and what service before self means.

This is the type of heart we need for the nation.

So, let us put other hearts together and beat as one on polling day.

We know we will not be getting a rubber-stamp president.

Thank you.

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